Written by: Hannah Tran | June 17th, 2021
Les Nôtres (Jeanne Leblanc, 2021) 3 out of 4 stars.
In director Jeanne Leblanc’s latest film, a small town in Québec on the verge of recovering from a communal tragedy is shaken further once they find out that a local girl, 13-year-old Magalie, is pregnant and unwilling to reveal who the father is. Tensions rise as her mother and the town reckon with the situation, torn between pointing fingers and dismissing it for the sake of saving face. Yet the truth of the matter turns out to be much more tragic, frustrating and sinister than what they could imagine. A simple but engrossing idea, Les Nôtres tackles much broader issues than those immediately apparent. From racism to power dynamics to the sexualization of young girls, Les Nôtres is a sincere portrait of modern suffering and our social and cultural denial of that suffering.
Les Nôtres has a broad amount of social issues it aims to address. Unlike many other films saddled with the same plight, however, it is able to do so in a meaningful and relevant way. Although some of these issues may at first seem irrelevant to the central plot, it ties them together nicely by personally connecting them to Magalie and by characterizing them as simply being foundational to the setting of Québec as a whole.
As Magalie, rising Québecois star Emilie Bierre (A Colony) embodies the complicated character with a naturalness one can only marvel at. While Magalie may be frustrating and understandably immature, Bierre’s heartbreaking performance provides her with a sense of humanity that places the audience directly in her corner. Moreover, the supporting performances are just as thoughtful and deliberate, and all of their feelings and emotions are perfectly inhabited by the equally thoughtful cinematography. The beautiful shots, perspective and colors of Les Nôtres manage to feel specific to this film while never being overly stylized or distracting from the characters at its heart.
But while this film certainly aims for subtlety, it never falls short on suspense. While occasionally melodramatic, the constantly frustrating characters and situations make for an effectively gripping story nearly the whole way through. It plays with the mystery of the situation and knows exactly when and how to reveal its answers to the audience. Its only major weakness lies in its final scenes, which lack the tension of all that precedes it. And although its conclusion may be brutally realistic, it ultimately feels unfulfilling in its lack of resolution and general lack of finality. Yet the unremarkable ending doesn’t make the core narrative feel less important. Although it could have been more confrontational in its approach, Les Nôtres is still intent on revealing the myths that lurk underneath its seemingly ideal suburban community and the larger world beyond that.